Welcome to the American Idol Top Five Week! With the contestants tackling songs from the best in British music, I’m not sure the producers needed to add another theme of “songs from the 1960s.” Let’s face it: the best music from the 60s WAS from the Brits. Aside from that nonsensical maneuver, four out of the remaining five contestants managed to create genuine “Idol-moments” for themselves on stage. Alas, the lone ranger who couldn’t quite rope in the cattle will unfortunately walk away scot-free on tonight’s result show. The “Your daddy let you date?” line is going to take this particular chump all the way to the finale if the cougar moms and teenage girls of America have anything to say about it. I’ll let the suspense go for now, as it’s time to take a dive and see what each contestant had in store for us this week…
5. Phillip Phillips (60s: “The Letter” & British Pop: “Time of the Season”) — As I sat there watching Phillip sing last night, the phrase that kept replaying in my mind was, We lost Elise AND Colton to this? Say what you will about Elise’s frown that was impossible to turn upside down or Colton’s caterwauling whines, but the two were stylistically and vocally much stronger than White Guy With Guitar 5. I fear Idol has suddenly become less exciting without either of them here — their ability to choose eclectic songs and reinvent them in a way that felt fresh and unique, with unyielding passion always in the forefront, made this season a true delight. With Phillip’s continued presence on the program, I feel as though a marginally talented musician is unfairly rewarded votes following each inadequate vocal display. It will be no different tomorrow. Phillip’s first song may have lacked melody, but it was also missing some diversity and flavor. The entire song was sung so monotonously, I thought the world had suddenly turned flat — or was that just Phillip’s singing? “The Letter” is an iconic song, and Phillip made it unrecognizably forgettable. For “Time of the Season,” Phillip milked every female vote he could get by making googly eyes at the camera, not caring whether his voice was a decibel above inaudible. There was zero oomph in the song, and Phillip just let the melody lay there without adding any panache or seasoning. Astonishingly enough, Phillip sucked out the cool factor from the 1960s, making it drab and flavorless as a result. Based on Phillip’s interpretation of the song, you’d think the decade was saturated in a constant state of ennui. White Guy With Guitar 5 needs to get on home. It won’t happen, but that won’t stop me from keeping the faith.
Performance Reviews: (60s: **, British Pop: *)
Did Phillip throw in the towel, or is he really just this bad? Judge for yourself:
This is how “Time of the Season” should be sung, ladies and gentlemen:
4. Skylar Laine (60s: “Fortunate Son” & British Pop: “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”) — After three weeks in a row of delivering spectacular performance after spectacular performance, my little shotgun cowgirl finally hit a minor snag. Don’t get me wrong, compared to Phillip, Skylar Laine was Celine Dion to his David Hasselhoff, but it wasn’t the usual fare of Skylar greatness. “Fortunate Son” had a lot of great energy, but so do drunk karaoke singers, so I’m not sure the word “energy” was enough of a positive trademark to make me forgive some of the off-colored shots at the melody. For me, Creedence Clearwater has a certain sound that is unparalleled, and try as she may, Skylar came across uncomfortably average with her rendition. It’s perhaps a song that isn’t meant for the Idol stage unless, of course, you are a part of Creedence Clearwater Revival band. I wanted to get thrown back in time, but instead I thought the song — or rather, Skylar’s rendition of this 60′s classic — felt oddly dated for 2012. For her second song, Skylar’s voice never soared to the levels of Dusty Springfield’s original version. Each sung lyric could have gone a note or two higher, and Skylar’s “Miss America” stage persona didn’t help matters either. I felt as though the song was too big for Skylar, and it was the first time I noticed her voice couldn’t really compete with the vocal capacities of a song. I would have loved to hear more range, or notes stretched out to the max for greater effect, but instead this was a decent effort when it should’ve been a grand one.
Performance Reviews: (60s: ***, British Pop: ***)
It’s too late in the game for Skylar to have a mediocre week. I worry about her safety tonight:
And because I’m on an Idol-comparison roll, here’s how this Dusty Springfield hit must be SUNG:
3. Joshua Ledet, (60s: “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” & British Pop: “To Love Somebody”) — Joshua, Joshua, Joshua. He is the contestant this season who I’ve been most ambivalent about. Technically, he is pretty stellar, but I still feel like his lack of maturity hurts his performances at times. His inexperience in life, if you can call that a weakness, tends to seep into his renditions, especially on the slower songs. A great artist — which is what all three judges basically claimed Joshua to be, and then some — needs to fully sell a performance, not just by their voice or their command of the stage, but also by transcending their emotions to an audience. I need to feel and believe what Joshua is singing wholeheartedly, and I find myself often missing that key component from him. Last night, his “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” seemed more like an exercise in fine-tuning dance moves than it was about reinvigorating a Motown classic. His version was good, but it was a tad unoriginal. I would have liked maybe a few more runs or phrase-changes, but it certainly wasn’t anything to condemn. Joshua’s second song was technically masterful, but that beginning was just a tad too reserved and cautious. From the moment a song commences, I expect to be transported to a different plane of existence. To me, there is a disconnect when Joshua begins songs. He seems unsure, and the judges seem to only stand up when he lays it all out at the end, but a perfect performance derives from the sum total of all chapters in a song. Joshua can slay the conclusion of any track, but I just wish he hooked me in from the get-go. “To Love Somebody” had some truly outstanding vocal moments — those wails were blissfully poignant — but the believability factor wasn’t fully present.
Performance Reviews: (60s: ***, British Pop: ***1/2)
I feel guilty for not connecting to Joshua as much as I should. Anyone else have this issue?:
2. Jessica Sanchez, (60s: “Proud Mary,” & British Pop: “You Are So Beautiful”) — Well, Jessica is back on my good side this week. I received a few emails and comments about how unfair and “mean” I was to Jessica last week, but I was simply expressing a legitimate opinion. I’m no fan of someone who tries to play up a sob story for votes, but that’s now behind us. This is a brand new week, and I am happy to report that Jessica was right on the money with both performances. Sure, her “Proud Mary” may have been unoriginal when it came to the Beyonce/Tina Turner dance moves she was mimicking, but the girls vocals were stronger than when Beyonce tried to do the number at the Grammys a few years back. For Jessica to sing so well even when dancing around on stage, trying to memorize specific choreography, is a testament to her talent. I will say though, Jessica’s getup was slightly bizarre and a little creepy — I couldn’t help but think of something along the lines of “Toddler in Tiara” when I saw the way Jessica was styled. At an appropriate age, this would have been fine, but Jessica’s outfit was slightly jarring when you compare it to her youthful mannerisms and young age. When all is said and done, I didn’t hate this performance as much as the judges did. Sure, some will call out Jessica’s version as a disrespectful imitation, but I had no problems with it. Jessica sang well, and she performed equally as amazing. Whether she lived up to the great Tina Turner shouldn’t really be up for discussion.
For Jessica’s second performance, I had flashbacks to when Katharine McPhee and Fantasia Barrino had their biggest Idol moments (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Summertime”) — that sitting posture alone screams, “I’m about to have an Idol moment, so shut up and pay attention!” I very much enjoyed hearing Jessica’s tone completely isolated from everything else, and the girl certainly proved her worth in the competition with this track. I’ve actually never warmed up to that song until hearing Jessica sing it. It always came across very corny and desperate to my ears, but Jessica found a way to focus on the serious meaning contained within the song and have it canvassed with every haunting note she hit. This was an impeccable vocal — possibly Jessica’s finest yet — and I would hate to think that this could be the end for Jessica Sanchez. I will say, however, that Jessica needs to come across more approachable and less robotic. Skylar and Hollie just seemed like they were having a blast last night, and Jessica looked incredibly uncomfortable and over-analytical when standing next to those two girls. For me, this was a great week for Jessica, but I could see why “Proud Mary” may not have been everyone’s cup of tea.
Performance Reviews: (60s: ***, British Pop: ****)
Jessica won me back over, but will her take on “Proud Mary” anger viewers? I guess we’ll find out tonight:
1. Hollie Cavanagh, (60s: “River Deep, Mountain High” & British Pop: “Bleeding Love”) — I know I’m going to be in the minority, but I couldn’t fully hop on board Hollie’s performance of “River Deep, Mountain High” like the judges were easily able to. Maybe it’s the fact that Pia Toscano performed that song last season and was consequently eliminated after singing it, but I want Hollie to steer clear of anything that could be an Idol hex. I also felt like Pia’s voice was a bit more spot on and controlled than Hollie’s delivery, which wasn’t always perfect. Where Hollie did outshine Pia was in performance value. While Pia’s idea of “rocking out” on stage was clunking forward like an android and squatting in front of the judges in a lavatorial manner, Hollie managed to pull the reigns on her entire stage production and take ownership of it. She was able to lead her entourage of dancers and musicians like it was nobody’s business. Hollie was the boss, and she wasn’t afraid to show it. When it comes to “Bleeding Love” (a song I originally chose for Jessica Sanchez), I couldn’t have asked for a more unique interpretation. Nobody sings like Leona Lewis, so I’m glad Hollie never tried to make her voice go places it doesn’t naturally feel comfortable journeying. Hollie pulled the song back, letting the lyrics be front and center, while her clear-as-day voice provided the arches of support for which to make the song explode. There were some unexpected vocal riffs that caught me by surprise, and Hollie’s welling of tears at the song’s conclusion nearly had me reaching for the Kleenex. Hollie basically gave this contemporary song a reboot that I never imagined it would need, but now I’m suddenly thankful for. If Hollie goes home this evening, you can bet I’ll be bleeding, and it won’t be feelings of love, I can assure you.
Performance Reviews: (60s: ***, British Pop: ****)
Hollie is a gem on this show. Don’t let her get away, America:
*Side Note* For fear of jinxing Hollie tonight, I will not be doing a side-by-side video comparison of Hollie and Pia’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” Lord knows we don’t need to see the return of Pia’s shameful cow dress.
Phillip/Joshua Duet Review, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” — (Phillip: **1/2, Joshua: **1/2)
Hollie/Jessica/Skylar Trio Review, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher!” — (Hollie: ***1/2, Jessica: ***, Skylar: **1/2)
Bottom Three (If there is one): Phillip, Jessica, and Skylar
Predicted Bottom Two: Jessica and Skylar
Going Home: Skylar Laine
That is all everybody! Yep, I am expecting Hollie and Joshua to be the top two in the votes tonight. I know Hollie performed first, but she’s doing incredibly well on the online polls, and had a great deal of buzz following the show. I just think Skylar had a sub-par week, and while it’s obvious Phillip should be sent packing, his hardcore fan base will keep him around, meaning Skylar will get the boot instead. I hope I’m wrong about Phillip’s safety, but usually people who have never found themselves in the bottom don’t suddenly go home in fifth place. What did you all think of this week’s show? Is Hollie on a roll, or what? Jessica was decent too, and I’m starting to wonder if Joshua may in fact reach the finale after all. This is certainly an unpredictable season, to say the least. As usual, please sound off below!
Tags: american idol, american idol recap, Hollie Cavanagh, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Sanchez, Joshua Ledet, Phillip Phillips, Randy Jackson, Ryan Seacrest, skylar laine, Steven Tyler